Jean Coutu Group reduces stake in Rite Aid

LONGUEUIL, Quebec — The Jean Coutu Group has sold 56 million of its approximately 234.4 million shares in Rite Aid, the company said Friday.

The Canadian retailing group said the $83.6 million, $1.51-per-share sale, which amounts to a nearly 24% reduction in the number of Rite Aid shares the company owns, would reduce its stake in Camp Hill, Pa.-based Rite Aid to 19.85%. The Jean Coutu group still owns about 178.4 million shares in the 4,667-store chain.

As a result of the sale, the number of Jean Coutu Group representatives on Rite Aid's board of directors will be reduced from three to two.

Rite Aid's relationship with Jean Coutu Group began in 2006, when the former purchased 1,858 Eckerd and Brooks drug stores in the United States in a $1.45 billion cash deal that included giving Jean Coutu Group a 32% stake in Rite Aid. The deal also left Rite Aid with a large debt load, including the $850 million in Jean Coutu Group debt that it agreed to take on, but significantly expanded its market share.